(94 Points) From the parcels below the Riesling, grown on weathered bedrock (iron-rich gneiss) and benefiting from descending air currents of the creek, the 2018 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Steinertal offers a coolish, fascinating, precise and flinty bouquet of white fruits. Lush and intense on the palate, this is a very intense and mineral but also sensual Veltliner that pleases hedonists as well as intellectuals. The wine has vivacious acidity, remarkable finesse and a long and sustainable finish with a lot of salt and tension. One of the finest Veltliners that has been produced in Lower Austria in 2018. Issue Date, 31st Mar 2020. Source- End of March 2020, The Wine Advocate
Leo Alzinger produced the usual series of wines in 2018. For him, 2018 is another excellent vintage after 2017, especially for Riesling and also Grüner Veltliner, the latter he prefers to the 2017s due to the expressive fruit character. The acidity was lower in 2018 than in 2017, but compared to 2003, a forerunner of the dry and warm twin vintages 2017/18, it is significantly higher and ranks between six grams per liter for the Federspiel category and five grams per liter for the Smaragd wines (which is a plus of more than 10% compared to 2003). "We have learned a lot since then," says Alzinger, referring to the green covers, the canopy management that protects the grapes from too much sunlight and helps ensure the right harvest dates. The alcohol levels are between 13% for Riesling and a maximum of 13.5% for Grüner Veltliner. "That's less than we were expecting in August when the sugar levels were rising far too quickly compared to the physiological ripeness. Yet the significant rainfalls in the second week of September (70 mm in three days) were more than welcome and diluted the high must weights again," reports Alzinger. Veltliner has thicker skins and is therefore not very sensitive for botrytis but Riesling is, so Alzinger was forced to discard 25% to 30% of the crop.
The 2018 harvest started earlier than ever before on September first. "We tried to pick during the night, because with the abnormally high day temperatures, the grapes were simply too warm to be picked during the day. In the end, we picked between sunrise and one pm, when the grapes had temperatures between 23 and 24 degrees Celsius (73.4-75.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Winemaking was very cautious, however. No maceration time for the crushed Veltliners and shorter macerations for the Rieslings than usual. The pressing was very gentle and yielded only 65% of the total volume. After the settlement, the musts were filtered and went right into the fermentation.
From the range of wines I tasted in September last year, I preferred the wines from the cooler vineyards, most of all the Veltliner and the Riesling Smaragds from the Ried Steinertal, followed by the Veltliners from the Ried Liebenberg and the (cooler part of) Ried Loibenberg. Alzinger's wines offer clear, bright fruit aromas intertwined with flinty terroir aromas. The Veltliners are intense and juicy but also refined, precise and elegant, well balanced as well as frisky and vital on the stimulating mineral finish. The Rieslings are juicy, intense and elegant as well as structured and provided with crystalline salinity.
How was the 2019 vintage looking in mid-September? "It is going to be a paradox vintage," said Leo Alzinger when we met in September. "The start was extremely late; there was even snow in mid-March. April was very warm and pushed the growth forward. Until the end of July, we had an average summer with highest temperatures no higher than 27 or 28 degrees Celsius (80.6 to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The supply of water was much better than in 2016, and we benefited from a thunderstorm trough with 50 to 60 liters at the right time. It only became dry and hot in August, when temperatures went over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). At the end of the month, we got 60 liters of rain and started picking Grüner Veltliner Federspiel qualities as soon as it was dry again." When we met, no Riesling had been picked but was scheduled for the middle of September. The acidity levels were fine, and Alzinger was optimistic that he would not be forced to correct the pH levels.
We will hopefully be able to taste the 2019s in September of this coronavirus year. Wine Advocate